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Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner (2023)

Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner (2023)
cameraFantasy Baseball Weekly Planner (2023)

Opening Day was about as fun as it gets as fans not only got treated to plenty of action across the league but also got a look at the assortment of new rules and how baseball is going to look moving forward.

With the fantasy baseball season underway, it’s time to roll out the first edition of FantasyPros’ Weekly Fantasy Baseball Planner. This piece will take a look at favorable and unfavorable matchups for the upcoming week of fantasy baseball while featuring streaming options and fringe fantasy players to target or avoid in such matchups. We know the stars are going to play regardless of matchup, so we’re focussing in on players on the fringe of fantasy relevancy.

I’ll be here all season long, dishing out these weekly pieces, and feel free to give me a follow on Twitter @BKemp17 for any questions or comments along the way!

Remember, this initial piece targets matchups from Monday, April 3, through Sunday, April 9. Sound good? Let’s get to it!

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Weekly Fantasy Baseball Planner (2023)

Favorable Schedules

Tampa Bay Rays: @ WSH (3), vs. A’s (3)

The most favorable schedule of the upcoming week easily goes to the Tampa Bay Rays, who take on two clubs that will likely vie for the first overall pick in 2023. You would have to think, at least, the Nationals and A’s will finish in the basement of their respective divisions.

While the Nats have some high-upside arms in their rotation in Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore, it appears the Rays will get Trevor Williams to open the series, followed (perhaps) by Chad Kuhl and Patrick Corbin. As it’s set up right now, there’s a solid chance they avoid both Gray and Gore.

In facing the A’s, the Rays take on a bruised and battered rotation to the point that 25-year-old rookie Kyle Muller started for the club on Opening Day, although he pitched quite well in an upset win over the Angels. The A’s are without their 2022 All-Star Paul Blackburn due to a fingernail issue, while James Kaprielian battled shoulder issues in camp.

Players to Target

Christian Bethancourt (C – TB)

I absolutely love Bethancourt in two-catcher leagues, as his playing time is unsure with the younger Francisco Mejia in the picture. However, Bethancourt was the far superior player both at the plate and behind it last season and needs to be strongly considered during the upcoming week.

The 31-year-old enjoyed a career year in his return to the majors after bouncing around the world for several seasons. He hit 11 homers with five stolen bases across 101 games but also destroyed the league average in key areas such as barrel rate, hard-hit rate, and average exit velocity.

While most projection systems have Mejia edging Bethancourt in playing time, I think the latter will play himself into the 1A catcher for the Rays this season.

Josh Lowe (OF – TB)

It will be interesting to see how the Rays deploy Lowe as the left-handed pinch-hitting at-bat went to Luke Raley in Thursday’s season opener against the Tigers. Nonetheless, Lowe should see time in right field against right-handed pitching, and it appears the Rays will see plenty of that against the Nationals and A’s next week.

Lowe struggled at the MLB level in 2022, hitting just .221 with two homers, three steals, and a .627 on-base plus slugging (OPS) across 52 games with the Rays. He fared much better at Triple-A, where he hit .315 with 14 homers, 25 steals, and a .958 OPS across 80 games.

Lowe struck out at huge rates in both leagues last season but is getting a shot to display his power/speed combination with the big club to begin the season.

Boston Red Sox: vs. PIT (3), @ DET (3)

The Red Sox put up nine runs on Opening Day and should continue to boast a strong offense even after losing Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez this winter.

They have long been one of baseball’s best home offenses and should knock around a suspect Pirates pitching staff to begin the week. Mitch Keller could have a fine season, but whether the likes of Rich Hill, Vince Velasquez and Johan Oviedo can support him is up for debate.

Similarly, there are plenty of questions in the Tigers’ rotation behind Eduardo Rodriguez. Spencer Turnbull is coming off Tommy John surgery, Matthew Boyd endured lengthy injury issues in both 2021 and 2022, Joey Wentz is a prospect who endured a rough spring, and Matt Manning struggled early in the spring before finishing strong.

Additionally, the Tigers lost four high-leverage relievers from their excellent bullpen last season. Regression is easy to see in this department in 2023.

Players to Target:

Adam Duvall (OF – BOS)

With all of their injuries in the infield, it’s easy to see a four-man infield of Triston Casas, Christian Arroyo, Enrique Hernandez and Rafael Devers for much of the playing time. As a result, there are not many “fringe” players on the Red Sox until the internal competition ramps up when healthy.

Adam Duvall is going to play nearly every day as well between the outfield and designated hitter spots, but he’s a player who could go off next week. He has light-tower power, and the short left field in Boston is going to help his right-handed power bat. The veteran hit 38 homers in 2021 before dipping to 12 across 86 games last season. Nonetheless, his power will play up against two suspect pitching staffs this week.

Reese McGuire (C – BOS)

Reese McGuire will be on the strong side of the catching platoon with righty-swinging rookie Connor Wong this season. That was evident when McGuire started Opening Day versus right-hander Kyle Gibson before Wong pinched hit when lefty Keegan Akin entered the contest.

McGuire has played in just 231 big-league games and owns a weak .125 isolated power with 12 home runs in that time. However, he’s shown flashes of pop earlier in his career with the Blue Jays. Fenway Park doesn’t favor left-handed hitters, but McGuire should be able to take advantage of the spacious gaps provided by Comerica Park in Detroit.

Unfavorable Schedules

Oakland A’s: vs. CLE (3), @ TB (3)

The A’s are likely to struggle on offense after ranking as one of the very worst groups last season, and face a couple of the game’s elite pitching staffs will not help this week.

Last season, the Indians ranked sixth with a 3.47 team earned run average (ERA), and the Rays checked in at fourth with a 3.41 mark. At the same time, the A’s ranked 29 in runs scored. This is going to be a tough week for A’s bats.

Players to Avoid:

Jesus Aguilar (1B/DH – OAK)

Facing a couple of excellent pitching staffs is one thing. Facing them in pitcher-friendly parks makes it even more difficult.

Jesus Aguilar will provide some pop this season as he’s hit 38 home runs over the last two seasons, and he even knocked in 93 runs with the 2021 Marlins. However, his power notably dipped last season when he put forth a career-worst .144 isolated power (ISO) and 5.5% walk rate. Without any speed whatsoever, it’s going to be tough for Aguilar to even get on base, let alone play long ball in the matchups he will see.

Shea Langeliers (C – OAK)

Shea Langeliers’ fantasy value took a sizeable leap, with veteran backup Manny Pina starting the season on the injured list. Given his minor-league track record of notable power, he makes for a solid fantasy backstop, even if he’s on a poor A’s offense. After all, he homered six times with a strong .211 ISO in 40 games in his MLB debut last season.

However, in one-catcher leagues, you might want to find a temporary stop-gap. Someone like the aforementioned Bethancourt, for example. He hit for power but also hit just .218 with the A’s last season and hasn’t hit for a ton of average in the minors, either. Both the Guardians and Rays ranked in the top eight in batting average against last season.

Kansas City Royals: vs. TOR (4), @ SF (3)

The Royals were stymied 2-0 on Opening Day by the Minnesota Twins, and things won’t get any easier against the Jays and Giants next week.

The Jays have a loaded rotation with a couple of Cy Young contenders in Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah, while Jose Berrios represents a strong bounce-back candidate. They added Chris Bassitt in the offseason, and Yusei Kikuchi was absolutely dominant this spring.

The Giants have a solid rotation themselves, with Logan Webb leading the way. He punched out 11 Yankees on Opening Day, while Alex Cobb and Ross Stripling should once again be reliable contributors.

Like with the A’s, the Royals also play all of next week’s games in pitcher-friendly venues.

Players to Avoid:

Michael Massey (2B – KC)

As bright as Michael Massey’s future may be, things look pretty dim next week.

Massey displayed a solid combination of power and speed in the minors last season but hit just four homers with three steals alongside a .683 OPS across 52 games with the Royals last season. Steamer projects Massey to hit just nine home runs with five steals and a below-average overall bat again this season.

This is a good time to cut Massey or put him on the pine next week.

Franmil Reyes (OF/DH – KC)

Reyes isn’t a highly rostered fantasy player at this point, as he hit just 14 homers with a career-low .144 ISO between the Guardians and Cubs last season. His power is attractive, but it’s going to be hard to play long ball against these pitching staffs in these ballparks this week.

It’s time to cut bait on Reyes until he shows he has regained his power, as he’s still just 27 years old and a player who homered 37 times as a 23-year-old in 2019.

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